Supreme Court finds that teachers on strike were deducted too much pay


2 mins

Posted on 30 May 2017

The Supreme Court has ruled that a Sixth Form College deducted too much pay from teachers who went on strike for one day. Whilst the college could withhold pay, this should have been at the rate of 1/365th of annual salary (not 1/260th). This is consistent with teachers in schools whose terms are governed by the Burgundy Book, which expressly states that deductions when teachers go on strike should be at the rate of 1/365th of annual salary.

In Hartley and others v King Edward VI College, teachers employed by a Sixth Form College, whose employment is governed by the Red Book, claimed breach of contract when they were deducted pay at the rate of 1/260th of their salary when they went on strike for one day, arguing that the College should have only deducted 1/365th of their salary. This rate had been used as there are 260 working days in the year.

The Red Book provides that when teachers go on strike the College can withhold pay. It also provides that teachers must work up to 195 days a year as “directed time”, which includes teaching and other duties, as well as an unspecified amount of “undirected time”, which includes marking, writing reports and other duties. The teachers regularly performed undirected duties outside of normal term-time hours (during evenings, weekends and annual leave). 

The teachers relied on the Apportionment Act 1870 to argue that their annual salary accrued from day to day and must be apportioned accordingly, unless expressly stipulated otherwise. The High Court dismissed their claim and the Court of Appeal dismissed their appeal, deciding that salary accrued at a rate gleaned from the construction of the contract, which should be 1/195th (the number of days of directed time) but accepting that the College’s rate of 1/260th was sensible and acceptable. 

The Supreme Court disagreed and upheld the teachers’ appeal, deciding that annual salary accrues at an equal daily rate over the calendar year unless expressly provided otherwise. As there was nothing in the teachers’ contracts which stipulated apportionment other than on a calendar day basis, the Court of Appeal’s approach was wrong and the teachers’ claim succeeded. This means that there is now a clear authority that Sixth Form Colleges should deduct pay at a rate of 1/365th of a teacher’s salary for each day on strike, as is the case for school teachers governed by the Burgundy book.

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